Bringing the power of choice to Australia

I’ve just become one of the 10,000 or so Australians who switched electricity providers to Powershop. It’s a brand that’s likely to be familiar to most of you Kiwis, but here in Australia it’s still a very new name in a recently deregulated market.

Australians’ attitude to their utility company and other big providers such as the banks has been neither here nor there. Despite a reputation as being loud-mouthed and tough-as-nails, Aussies do in fact share New Zealanders “she’ll be right” attitude.

There have been some dodgy energy companies knocking on doors and signing people over unwittingly, so Meridian’s cheeky little brother may need to assure Australians that it’s both a disruptor and a respectable brand…

Navigating fashion’s rocky retail road

Many Australian fashion brands have packed it in, either by choice or by economic force. Last year that list included Collette Dinnigan, Lisa Ho, Kirilly Johnson and T.L. Wood. Just one week into 2014, George Gross and Harry Who have called it a day. There will be more casualties.

So as the year begins and I return to my office in the boutique-shopping strip of Melbourne’s Hawskburn, I’m genuinely concerned for Australian, and also New Zealand, fashion brands, and in particular labels at the premium end.

One designer that I feel nervous for is Trelise Cooper, one of New Zealand’s best-known fashion exports to Australia…

Kumfs rebranded as Ziera. Do the market buy it?

Ziera has been in Australia since 1995. In 2010 the company underwent a major rebrand from their former name, Kumfs. The purpose of the rebrand was to step away from grandma and make a play for the daughter. That’s no small feat (feet?) in any industry – it’s a major perception shift. The words fashion and comfort are a rare pairing, but fashion and orthotics is a giant leap of Neil Armstrong proportions.

However, it’s not entirely implausible. Birkenstock and Dr. Martens certainly didn’t start out as style icons. Even the very popular Spanish label Camper is known as both trend and comfort. Credit must go to managing director and third generation owner Andrew Robertson for wanting to grow his family business and build a greater brand.

Can Ziera gain a significant foothold in this broader market or is it a step too far from the older, loyal customer base?

Seedling grows Aussie market

If you’ve ever been into a toy shop or wandered through the children’s section of a department store, you’ll know all about consumer choice. Aisle after aisle of products vying for attention. Things that beep and bleep, shake and sing. High tech, low tech, vintage revival. The toy and games sector is overwhelmed with products.

Imagine my surprise then, when earlier this year I came across a brand that not only stood out on the shelves but seemed to pop up in every trendy little kid’s boutique and magazine. I was further delighted to find that Seedling is made by Kiwis.

There’s a craft revolution going on in Australia, as it is indeed around the world, and Seedling is right in the middle of it…

Business with Australia: A right time?

In the first of a six part series on Kiwi companies exporting to Australia, Bella Katz asks when the time was right to look beyond New Zealand.

Although there was no single ‘lightbulb moment’ that sparked the move beyond New Zealand, those taking on the Australian market all have a critical piece of advice: don’t do it by half.

For Elizabeth Barbalich, owner of skincare brand Antipodes Nature, it was almost six years from dipping her toe into Australian waters to a more strategic approach to launching her brand there. In the years between, her business became successful in other international markets she believes are less challenging than Australia, including the UK, where Antipodes is now an established brand…